White Sox

Missouri St.-Creighton Preview

Missouri St.-Creighton Preview

If his last performance against Missouri State is any indication, Creighton's Doug McDermott may be poised for another big game.

Back home for the first time in 15 days following a tough road swing, the 21st-ranked Bluejays may ride their star again on Wednesday night when they try for a regular-season sweep of the Bears.

McDermott, who ranks among the national leaders in scoring (23.7 points per game) and 3-point percentage (50.0), finished with a season-high 39 points to lead Creighton to a 74-52 victory at Missouri State on Jan. 11.

The junior made 14 consecutive shots and finished 15 for 19 from the field for the second-highest point total of his career. He had 44 in a win at Bradley last January.

Creighton (18-3, 7-2 Missouri Valley) shot 57.4 percent from the floor and 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from beyond the arc at Missouri State. It leads the nation in both categories.

Now McDermott and the Bluejays get another shot at a Bears team that has allowed 69.0 points on 48.0 percent shooting over its last five games.

"They'll fight us defensively," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "They're going to grind it out and try to control the tempo, much like they did at their place. We have to make every possession count."

McDermott's club, however, has shown it can take care of business, winning 71 straight home games against losing teams.

After dropping the first two legs of a three-game road swing, Creighton bounced back behind McDermott's 21 points with an 81-51 rout of Southern Illinois on Sunday - the Bluejays' most lopsided road win since Feb. 19, 1974.

Jahenns Manigat, who had 11 points in the first meeting with the Bears, added 12 against the Salukis after going scoreless in the team's consecutive defeats.

Gregory Echenique, the team's leading rebounder (7.5 per game), added 12 points and 11 boards to help the Bluejays gain a 39-19 advantage on the glass.

That's certain to be an area of concern for Missouri State (6-15, 4-5). The Bears are 0-13 when they've been outrebounded - their minus-3.7 differential is last in the MVC - while the Bluejays are 16-0 when they've beaten teams on the boards.

Missouri State had won six straight in the series before Creighton took the last two meetings in Springfield.

While the Bluejays have won 44 of 50 at home the past three seasons, the Bears have handed them two of those losses. Missouri State, however, is just 1-7 on the road this season.

Senior Anthony Downing had 26 points to help the Bears snap a four-game losing streak with a 78-72 victory over Drake on Sunday.

Downing has averaged 17.3 points in nine conference games, but managed only 10 on 4-of-11 shooting in the first meeting with the Bluejays.

Gavin Thurman, one of Missouri State's four starting freshmen, is averaging 15.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting in his last four games.

"Those freshman are playing at a high level," Greg McDermott said. "They're a dangerous basketball team."

The Bears, though, have had their share of growing pains, ranking at the bottom of the MVC in scoring (60.2), field-goal percentage (40.6), 3-point percentage (30.9) and free-throw percentage (64.3).

It doesn't figure to get any easier against a Creighton team that ranks near the top of the conference defensively in each of those areas.

The Bears shot 37.9 percent overall and 21.7 percent from 3-point range in the first meeting.

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

James McCann should be an All Star. That's not me advocating a position as much as it is stating a fact: Barring something crazy, McCann should be a member of the American League roster next month in Cleveland.

Whether McCann is starting behind the plate or he'll get his turn in one of the later innings is in the hands of baseball fans, with the polls currently open for them to choose a starter between him, Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Robinson Chirinos of the Houston Astros. Sanchez is probably the favorite to win the most votes. He has the first-place Yankees' worldwide fan base behind him, as well as 23 home runs and 52 RBIs.

But McCann has his own stellar case to start, in the midst of a, frankly, out-of-nowhere campaign of spectacular proportions. He entered Wednesday afternoon's game against the Boston Red Sox with a .326/.387/.508 slash line to go along with everything else he's done for this team.

McCann did a little more to add to his case Wednesday, picking up a pair of hits against Chris Sale, one of which was mashed over the Green Monster for a third-inning home run in the White Sox win on getaway day.

"He's the best catcher in the American League," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said during Wednesday's broadcast. He's a tad biased, of course, but it doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong. "So I think that's all you have to really say. Offensive numbers, how much he's helped this team from a leadership standpoint, he checks all the boxes. He deserves to be starting the All-Star Game."

McCann has been a hell of a find for the White Sox. When they added him in December, it appeared they were simply acquiring a veteran bridge, and a backup at that, to get them to highly rated catching prospect Zack Collins. Instead, McCann has performed so well that he's being penciled in by fans and onlookers as the team's catcher moving forward. At 29 years old, that's hardly outrageous, and he's still arbitration eligible following this season, making it very easy for the White Sox to bring him back for 2020.

And why wouldn't they? He's made a shocking improvement to the offensive numbers he put up in five years with the division-rival Detroit Tigers, a half-decade during which he hit only 240/.288/.366. It goes without saying that whatever McCann did this offseason worked.

"It's something I've worked for," McCann said last week at Wrigley Field. "It's something, as a little boy, you dream of, and as you get older you work for it. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication.

"After a down year offensively last year, I got to do some soul searching, and the biggest thing for me was not trying to be someone that I wasn't. And it sounds simple, sounds silly, but literally just trying to be who James McCann is and not trying to be someone else."

Who James McCann is has been a middle-of-the-order hitter for these White Sox and a game-changer behind the plate. It didn't take long for manager Rick Renteria to make #CleanupManJamesMcCann a thing, and it took a similarly brief amount of time for Renteria to give the majority of the catching duties to McCann in his timeshare with Welington Castillo.

While McCann's offensive presence has been great, his ability to do what Castillo couldn't during the latter's 80-game steroid suspension last season has been perhaps McCann's greatest contribution. He's excelled working with the pitching staff, specifically Giolito, whose turnaround from the statistical worst pitcher in the game to one of the best has been the biggest story of the team's season to this point.

"I have nothing but fantastic things to say about him," Giolito said last week. "He's done a great job this year. Looking forward to him being an All Star. There's not enough good things I can say about what he does defensively and offensively for us."

McCann often deflects the credit heaped onto him by Giolito back to the pitcher. But certainly that part of the White Sox acquisition of the veteran backstop in the offseason has come to fruition. The offense? General manager Rick Hahn has said multiple times that McCann has exceeded their expectations in that department.

"Obviously I played against them for five years, so they'd seen me quite a bit," McCann said last week. "I just turned 29, which I guess in the game of baseball some people think is old now, but in all reality I feel like I'm just coming into my prime. I hope that's the way the organization looks at me.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I've really enjoyed my time here."

That opportunity has yielded an All-Star first half for McCann. See you in Cleveland, James.

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Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Alex Colome blew his first save of the season in the eighth inning, and the White Sox seemed destined for a deflating loss that would have had them swept out of Fenway Park.

Jose Abreu had different plans.

Down a run with one out in the top of the ninth, Abreu battled Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes in a 10-pitch at-bat. The 10th of those pitches was sent over the Green Monster for a score-flipping, two-run homer that took a 7-6 loss to an 8-7 lead.

Clutch.

It was the second ball Abreu blasted over the Monster in this series. He smacked one off the National Car Rental sign Monday night. This one did even more damage and traveled completely outside of Fenway Park, to boot.

That 8-7 lead turned into an 8-7 win when Colome shut the door in the bottom of the ninth.

Abreu doesn't have the same averages he has throughout his immensely productive big league career, the owner of a .255/.295/.493 slash line coming into Wednesday's game. But he's back on track from a power perspective after last season's injury-plagues season, with 19 homers and 59 RBIs. The four runs he drove in Wednesday's three-hit effort brought him to that 19-59 total that's a special numerical combination to White Sox fans. As of this writing, Abreu is one off the league-leading 60 RBIs of Seattle's Domingo Santana.

Abreu's heroics prevented the White Sox losing streak from sliding to five. It also continued a nice bounce-back season for him that has proven he's still capable of doing plenty of damage and could keep him around on the South Side into the future. He's slated to hit free agency at the end of the 2019 campaign, but general manager Rick Hahn has made it sound like Abreu is part of the team's plans moving forward.

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